I don’t think I had read the blurb or even a single review for this book before I read it, which is strange for me. I guess I made my decision based on random things I’d heard and general recommendations and, like, the title. It turned out, however, that I had the complete wrong idea about this book; I thought it would be a dark slave/master romance/erotica—which, aside from the dark part, I don’t even usually like, so why exactly did I think this would be my kind of book?—but that wasn’t what it was like at all.
The series did have a romance that started out as slave/master, but it wasn’t some immediate jump from one to the other in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way. In fact, there was zero romance in Book 1 and only a kind of potential romance in Book 2 (even though you know what’s going to happen from the start). Plus, the slave thing was terrible but in a believable sort of way rather than being ridiculously extreme the way I was expecting it to be considering books tend to err on the extreme side of things and considering I have read so much worse in other books *MILD SPOILER* (he was forced to fight someone, he was flogged nearly to death, and he received nonconsensual oral sex from a background character). *END SPOILER*
Ok, yes, the general debauchery and sexual abuse in the palace was excessive (so don’t go into this book expecting something clean), but even that was written in a way that kind of didn’t seem overdone? I guess I was able to believe that the nation of Vere, or at least those living in the palace, were just like that and that it was all normal to them. I mean, all the nations had sex slaves or pets, so if I could believe that, it wasn’t much more of a stretch to believe they treated them horribly and made them “perform” in arenas and whatnot in Vere.
As for the things I liked about the book (since everything I’ve said so far was kind of just explanation)…
I loved the writing. It was so eloquent. I learned a lot of new words, but it never felt like the author went crazy with a thesaurus. The writing matched the story and Damen’s character perfectly and was just a pleasure to read.
And speaking of Damen, he was another thing I loved. He was actually smart, did what he needed to, kept quiet sometimes even when people were goading him, didn’t get bent out of shape over comparatively little things, etc. He kept his eyes on the goal, which was to escape and get back to his nation. And it was actually understandable the few times when he did mouth off or object or stop cooperating. I couldn’t blame him because I probably would’ve done the same. I was also really glad that he didn’t excuse Laurent’s cruelty just because Laurent sometimes did something nice. He knew that Laurent was manipulative and only did things when he had something to gain from it. He didn’t let himself be drawn in by Laurent’s charms. I told you, no Stockholm Syndrome here.
Laurent was a well-written character too. Not a likeable person (well, I loved him by the end of the series, but that’s not what this review is about), but good as a character. Cold and cruel and manipulative and ridiculously smart.
So overall, I was really surprised by this book and didn’t want to put it down once I started. I was completely drawn in by the eloquent writing and the complex characters!
M/M high fantasy fans who like: slow burn, enemies-to-lovers, tension-filled romance; complex characters; intricate plots; and eloquent writing.